Western Nevada College News & Notes: Former student earns fellowship for research work

An early fascination with research and science that came to light at Western Nevada College is helping Alice Sady find a prominent place in physics.

The second-year Johns Hopkins University graduate student recently earned a National Science Federation Graduate Fellowship for Large Hadron Collider research at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research.

Sady received her bachelor’s in astrophysics at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass. She has performed extensive research work in college, including an eight-month stint on the ATLAS collaboration at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, searching for new physics, and six months researching the chemical composition of planetary nebulae in M31, the Andromeda Galaxy.

“It is amazing what she has accomplished and potentially will accomplish as a budding particle physicist,” said Robert Collier, director-emeritus of the Jack C. Davis Observatory at WNC.

Sady, who grew up in Minden, credits the observatory and the NASA Nevada Space Grant for introducing her at an early age to research and a possible career in science. Through her association with Collier at the observatory, and her classes in calculus and differential equations at WNC, Sady began her collegiate studies earlier than most.

Sady has said in the past that they opened the door to even bigger opportunities that “I may not have considered taking had I not been given this tutelage at WNC.”

Sady’s upcoming research work will emphasize searching for a heavy particle that decays to a Higgs boson and another vector boson, using newly developed techniques to identify the Higgs boson. She also hopes to use new data to look for a particular variety of supersymmetry, where the lightest supersymmetric particle decays to electrons and muons that are closely surrounded by quarks and gluons.

In the past two years, Sady has collaborated with theorists and experimentalists in the department to create a variable that serves as a signal-background discriminant for this kind of decay that involves leptons surrounded by hadronic activity, a signature that has not been considered in most LHC analyses.

With the NSF fellowship, Sady will be able to use this variable to look for new heavy particles and supersymmetric particles in the data arriving.

Despite her time-consuming commitments to academics and research, Sady has made the time to give back to others at the schools she has attended.

She has been involved in outreach and diversity organizations at Williams College and at John Hopkins University. She has planned Women in Physics lunches and headed a chapter of the Society of Physics Students to support the undergraduate community at Williams College, and provided outreach to the rural community in the Berkshires.

At Johns Hopkins, Sady participates in Physics & Astronomy Graduate Students events, has served as a member on the Hopkins Diversity Leadership Council, and is the current chair of the Physics and Astronomy Diversity Group.

Business student invited to UNLV Women’s Leadership Program

Western Nevada College business student Priscilla Sweatt spent her school year learning about commerce and customers. But when most students began their summer break, Sweatt was preparing to spend a week with other college women from around the state as part of an institute focused on civil engagement and leadership.

Sweatt was recommended by a WNC business professor to attend the National Education for Women Leadership Nevada institute that convened June 1-6, on the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, campus. NEW Leadership is an award-winning program created by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.

Dr. Robert Whitcomb, a business professor at WNC, recommended Sweatt for the program. “Priscilla is a true success story,” said Whitcomb, who has taught Sweatt in business, leadership and personal finance classes. “I can tell you she is an outstanding student. She understands the value of education and makes the most of it. She faces challenges head on and always makes the best of her situation.”

NEW Nevada Leadership emphasizes teaching students about the diversity of women’s historical and contemporary participation in politics and policy-making. It also seeks to connect students with woman leaders who make a difference in the public sphere — from education, gaming, business, law, politics, banking and community activism. Students explore the demands of ethical leadership, and practice leadership through action.

“For 10 years, our program has had a positive and lasting influence on the NSHE college women who participate,” said Joanne Goodwin, a UNLV history professor and director of the Women’s Research Institute of Nevada.

WRIN covered the students’ costs, including housing, meals and program materials.


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